The latest two-part DC Comics animated film epic is based on a beloved Batman story, but the adaptation falls short of the heights of the original.
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One
Directed by Chris Palmer
Based on the Graphic Novel by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Screenplay by Tim Sheridan
The 13-issue Batman: The Long Halloween from 1996 is probably my favorite Batman story of all time. The mystery written by Jeph Loeb and beautifully rendered by artist Tim Sale was easy to get lost in, as the creative team revealed how Gotham City went from being controlled by the mafia to overrun by the costumed supervillains that would be Batman’s rogues gallery. A mysterious killer hunted out members of the Falcone crime family and killed them off on holidays, starting with the death of Carmine “The Roman” Falcone’s nephew Johnny Viti on Halloween.
The announcement that Warner Bros. would adapt The Long Halloween into a two-part animated feature was exciting. DC Comics’ animated movies have done a lot of really great adaptations over the years, like The New Frontier and All-Star Superman. But, honestly, the Batman adaptations have been a little lacking. HUSH – another mystery written by Jeph Loeb – was greatly diminished from its comic book counterpart. And the less said about 2016’s Batman: The Killing Joke adaptation the better.
Unfortunately, part one of The Long Halloween feels like it’s missing something, much like the SUPERMAN: RED SON adaptation from last year.
Maybe it’s the art style of the animated film that starts the dissonance. Tim Sale’s artwork is so distinctive and is intrinsically tied to the story of The Long Halloween. The opening credits of the film features parts of Sale’s artwork from the maxiseries, but when the film actually begins, the art is revealed to be the same Archer-inspired style that was used in last year’s Superman: The Man Of Tomorrow. The art style worked in the Superman film, but that was an original story that wasn’t adapted from a comic with its own distinctive style. For any fans of the comic book story, the different art style – which felt at times like it was from one of those Telltale BATMAN games – is a bit disorienting right from the start.
The voice talent for the film is fine and mostly inoffensive. I think the standout of the first film was Catwoman, portrayed by the late Naya Rivera. Both parts of The Long Halloween are listed as the Glee actress’s final work before she died in October 2020. I also enjoyed Josh Duhamel as Harvey Dent, who plays a pretty major role in the story. Dent, the newly-elected Gotham City DA, joins forces with Gotham City Police Captain Jim Gordon and the Batman to try and take down the Falcone crime family, but their efforts are being hampered by the Holiday killer.
Despite being Gotham’s golden boy, Dent is not without his issues, and the film does a great job of relaying how both he and Gordon struggle with their personal lives. Gordon’s wife, though, seems a bit more understanding of the time commitment her husband’s job requires than Gilda Dent. Harvey’s relationship issues along with his somewhat questionable moral judgments and the stress of being targeted by both the Falcones and the freaks hint to his final fate and his future as villain Two-Face. Dent is, I think, the highlight of the film and gets even more of a focus in the first half of the film than he did in the corresponding parts of the comic book.
On the other side of the voice talent, I was a little disappointed in Troy Baker’s Joker. Everything he did in the film felt like he was copying Mark Hamil’s iconic Clown Prince of Crime, which has persisted for close to 30 years now. There’s no problem with having a new interpretation of the character, and it’s a little disappointing that we got little more than a retread of what’s been done before with another voice talent.
Maybe the second half the movie – which will undoubtedly need to have a bit of a faster pace than part one – will save the story, but this may just be a complete miss overall. It’s a shame, because it feels like DC Comics and Warner Bros. have had more misses than hits lately when it comes to animated adaptations.
Batman: The Long Halloween Part One is available now on Blu-Ray and streaming. Part Two will be available to stream on July 27.